Friday, May 26, 2017

West Coast Trail 2017

After a long, wet winter the sun finally came out in mid-May so Elise and I jumped on an opportunity to hike the West Coast Trail, a trip we'd been talking about for over a year. We had a good forecast and a long weekend which meant Elise wouldn't miss much school. We spent five nights and six days hiking the 75-kilometre trail and enjoyed our time together, camping and exploring along the beaches of Vancouver Island's west coast. It was a trip we'll remember for many years to come.

We spent the first night in the Trailhead Lodge so we'd be well rested and clean when we started the next day. Here, Elise poses in a whale skeleton out front.

The worst part of the entire trip was the next morning's four-hour bus ride to the trailhead along endless pot-holed logging roads. This is a necessary evil since the trail is a one-way trip. We left our car at the finish so it would be waiting for us on day six.

Our shiny, clean boots would not stay that way for long...

Elise and I at the start of the West Coast Trail in Pachena Bay near Bamfield. Our packs weighed about 30 lbs and 9 lbs and Elise carried hers for the entire hike.

Big trees, bridges and ladders were the name of the game (along with endless mud).

Sea lion rock on day one. A good place for lunch.

Elise signing the register at the first lighthouse station.

Dinner at Darling Creek, our first campsite.

A dead whale on the beach provided an interesting distraction on day two. Elise wouldn't get anywhere near it...

Walking along sandstone shelves covered in seaweed. This was a much less strenuous option than slogging through the sand.

The West Coast Trail is famous for its ladders, which are plentiful and huge! Here, Elise takes a break midway up.

We saw very few starfish, but the few we did see were huge. Their diminishing numbers are a result of warming sea temps.

We camped at Tsusiat Falls for our second night, one of the most popular sites on the trail. We both braved the cold water and showered under the spray.

The next morning was misty. As we hiked along the beach we ran into a river otter, which Elise spotted first!

The presence of kilometre markers are a rare treat that allow hikers to track their progress.

Many of the muddy boardwalks are in terrible disrepair. In fact, some pose the biggest hazard on the hike and its best to steer clear.

On day three we stopped at Nitnat narrows, a mandatory ferry crossing in a First Nations reserve. A snack shack on the wharf serves meals to hungry hikers. We splurged and split a massive Dungeness crab, a treat Elise had never tried before.

She loved the meat, but struggled with the shell cracker.

Some of the ancient trees along this trail are a sight to behold. Elise poses at the base of a magnificent Sitka spruce.

Night three was spent at Cribs Creek, another gorgeous spot on the sand. We enjoyed a campfire with friends we had made over the past couple of days.

The Carmanah Point lighthouse station provided a nice place to break on the morning of day four.

Just past the lighthouse was the second spot on the trail where it's possible to buy food. Elise and I gorged on butter tarts and Nanaimo bars while the owner's daughter looked on.

Our fourth night was spent at Walbran Creek, possibly the nicest campsite of them all. After dinner we enjoyed a fire with Koda, Owen and Sam.

Day five dawned rainy, much to our dismay. But it wouldn't be a hike on the West Coast Trail without a bit of wetness, right?

The terrain on this day was some of the most rugged on the entire trail. We traversed through jungle-like forests and across swamps. The highlight were the interesting wildflowers alongside the boardwalks.

Dinner at Campers Cove, our fifth and final night on the trail.

We woke at 4:30 am, a record for Elise, to take advantage of the low tides on Owen Point. Day six proved to be long and difficult, but the features along the coast were nothing short of spectacular.

We arrived at the final ferry crossing at 1:30 pm. Our shoes weren't shiny any more! Once across, we signed ourselves off the trail, grabbed the truck and headed straight to Tim Horton's in Lake Cowicahn. Donuts for a job well done!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christmas in Cuenca

This year, we spent our two-week Christmas break in Cuenca, Spain and had an enjoyable time despite some problems with our flights. Although this part of Spain experiences true winter with occasional snow, we were lucky to have sunny weather for the majority of our stay. Daytime highs ranged from 8-18 degrees Celsius, and this proved to be good conditions for climbing and other outdoor activities. We chose to rent an apartment in a small country village, Valdecabras, about 15 minutes outside of Cuenca, and it was a peaceful spot from which to start our daily activities. We saw cats, ate lots of Spanish pastry and enjoyed touring the region between days on the rocks...

On the 11-km loop hike behind our village on Christmas Eve.

A sunny, roadside cliff we frequented on cold days.

Great climbing in the gorge near our village.

We saw lots of cats, but only one let Elise pet it. The village cats were skittish.

Elise on the castle wall in Albarracin, a gorgeous village near Cuenca.

Narrow streets in Albarracin.

Elise photographing pictographs in the rocks near Albarracin.

A local climber from Madrid.

Our village, Valdecabras, in evening light.

We rented an Opel. It had some very odd features.

The church in Valdecabras in late-day light.

Elise on Christmas morning. She got Lego!

Petting ponies on Christmas Eve. One put it's head on Elise's shoulder.

Strange rock formations on the same hike. Elise in view.

Above our village on a beautiful day.

Elise climbing well on a route in Cuenca.

Unknown Spanish climber in Cuenca.

Interesting sink hole formations south of Cuenca.

Monastery in Cuenca that doubles as a hotel.

The old village had many narrow streets.

Detail of cathedral in Cuenca.

Fountain in the old part of the city.

The Cuenca archaeological museum had many interesting local artifacts.

Falling climber.

The river gorges had wonderful hiking trails and pathways.

Kayaking was very popular in the rivers.

Spanish climber on "Puss in Boots", Cuenca.

These routes were on giant boulders.

Overview of the Jucar River gorge, the area we frequented when climbing.

No trip would be complete without a great pastry shop. "Marisol" in Cuenca.

Happy New Year to you all!
Marc, Pam and Elise